Movie review: 'The Temptation of St. Tony'

Estonian writer-director Veiko Õunpuu's dazzling, surreal "The Temptation of St. Tony" concerns a modern-day St. Anthony (Taavi Eelmaa) who, in the wake of the death of his father, is plunged into a midlife crisis. A midlevel factory manager, Tony starts to question the value of virtue and longs to find meaning in his day-to-day reality.

Tony, who lives in a stark glass-walled house with his unfaithful wife (Tiina Tauraite) and small daughter, attends loud, drunken parties; he seems lost in a crass, pleasure-seeking existence. After he is ordered by his boss to fire his employees, however, Tony's experiences become increasingly bizarre; at one point, he tries to rescue a beautiful young woman (Ravshana Kurkova) who has been kidnapped by a deranged cabaret entertainer.

"The Temptation of St. Tony" becomes a harrowing, often darkly comic nightmare, studded with allusions to art, literature and film. With his soulful eyes, his curly hair and expression of perpetual apprehension, Eelmaa is as crucial to the success of the film as is Mart Taniel's remarkable cinematography and Ülo Krigul's evocative score.

When Tony arrives at a moment of peace, it's unclear whether he's lost in his imagination or planted in either this life or the next. Somehow, though, Õunpuu makes the locale seem cosmically unimportant.

— Kevin Thomas

"The Temptation of St. Tony." Unrated. In Estonian, Russian, English and French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.

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